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HOME NURSES MAY AVOID BEING LAID OFF

Two Niagara County Health Department nurses who provide intravenous therapy for patients confined to home will keep their jobs if the full County Legislature approves a committee recommendation from last week.

The Community Services and Administration committees voted in favor of keeping the nurses, whom County Manager Gregory D. Lewis had marked for layoff in his 2005 budget submission.

"I am not recommending this change," Lewis told the committees. He said the Health Department budget would exceed the money he had allocated if the layoffs did not stand.

Daniel J. Stapleton, the Health Department's financial operations director, said the net increase in the budget would be $22,270 to keep the two nurses. The proposal to restore the jobs was offered by Legislator Rebecca E. Cuddahee, D-Niagara Falls.

"I know you guys don't want to hear it, but somebody's got to decide who is going to be the safety net for these patients," Public Health Director Paulette M. Kline said during the same meeting.

Kline said the two private agencies that provide home nursing care, the Visiting Nursing Association and Staff Builders, sometimes refuse to take more cases in Niagara County because of their own staffing limitations. She said they are especially reluctant to travel to remote rural areas of Niagara County.

Lewis said that he would still like to privatize the county's home health care program and that he plans to issue a request for proposals in the new year "to see if there could be some cost-effectiveness and efficiency."

Stapleton said the Health Department has already supplied Lewis with plenty of spending cuts for 2005.

"We've already come up with $470,000 in county cost reductions," Stapleton said. "These (home nursing) services prevent other expenses."

Legislator William M. Davignon, D-North Tonawanda, was on Kline's side. "When you do home health care, it keeps them out of the hospital or nursing home. It's got to reduce costs," he said. "It would be penny-wise and pound-foolish not to allow (the two nurses to keep their jobs)."

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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